If you've been following the news recently, you may be aware that strange things are being planned for the moon: There's talk of advertising up above, colonizing, even buying and selling parts of it to willing consumers. But what would happen if the Big Cheese got lost? More important, asks Corey Fischer, director of A Traveling Jewish Theatre's Moonwatcher: A New Tale of Chelm for Chanukah, "What [would] happen if we stopped paying attention to things like the moon?" Moonwatcher, ATJT's first show of the season, is a new company-created comedy that uses puppets, juggling, and incredible acts of physical theater to ask such looming questions.
While the play takes place in Chelm -- a centuries-old imaginary town of fools that's often referenced in Eastern European Jewish folklore -- the narrative about a foundling mute named Menachem who becomes the town moonwatcher is original, written by ATJT members. The job of guarding the Earth's satellite is an occupation of the utmost importance to Chelm, since the Jewish calendar revolves around lunar cycles. Menachem loves the luminous orb, but he starts to take his new job too seriously, and begins to see the moon more as a scientific phenomenon than as his friend. The celestial body becomes disenchanted with the boy's new analytical attitude, and disappears. Now it's up to Menachem and the wacky townspeople to find it -- because without it, Chanukah can't happen.
Admission is $12.50-25 regular, pay-what-you-can Thursdays
While pure physical comedy is at the heart of Moonwatcher, the characters are also philosophical, in line with the nature of the piece. ATJT hopes that Moonwatcher -- its first family-centered play, and a far cry from its usual avant-garde fare -- stands out against the usual Bay Area holiday lineup. Who knows? Maybe Tiny Tim has finally met his match.